The 13th Annual Summer Institute for Climate Change Education was held at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, MN for three impactful days with the goal of participants gaining the tools, resources, and confidence to teach climate change in their educational setting.

Over 50 educators from 20 states convened in Central Minnesota on 2,900 acres of prairie, forest, and wetlands that have been managed by the Saint John’s Abbey since 1856. They learned about how Saint John’s is a living laboratory of place-based climate change education and sustainability by touring the arboretum, pottery studio, solar farm, and how decisions are made by planning 100 years into a changing future.

Locations of Educators Attending Summer Institute

Climate Generation’s interdisciplinary curriculum, Next Generation Climate, was used as a resource to frame the content for the week. This curriculum lets students investigate the cause of the global temperature change, research the major repercussions of climate change, and find out how they can monitor and minimize those repercussions. Students dive deep into graphs and data and practice the skills of argumentation and engineering design. This curriculum uses the Next Generation Science Standards as a framework and is also aligned to Climate and Energy Literacy standards and Minnesota state science, social studies, and ELA standards.

Participants took a pre and post survey so we could measure the impact of those attending the Institute. From the graph below, you can see that in every category about climate change that we covered the confidence levels of participants increased substantially after attending. The educators are now equipped to bring this information back to their students.

What participants are saying…

“The Summer Institute allowed me to collaborate with other educators and instructors all in the same space and time. Having those two pieces, as well as the curriculum and multitude of other resources makes it easy to learn and apply all that the Institute has to offer. I left with Climate Generation resources, teacher emails to collaborate, and a head full of ideas to get my students the information they need to be informed on the real world, real time issue of climate change!”

“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to attend….I feel very confident to teach climate change this upcoming school year and don’t feel so intimidated by graphs! It was a rich and rewarding Institute and made me appreciate all the educators who attended and care about our planet.”

“I came away from the Summer Institute with many ideas and resources to share with my peers so we can teach climate change across all subjects.”

“This was a really great experience that helped me better understand how we can further implement climate change content into our existing outdoor education programming. The connections with other teachers and experts was also very valuable. Very excited for the follow-up materials/resources to share with my team. Your facilitation of the conference was very organized and effective, love your energy!”

Check out the interactive agenda below and click on the presentations, resources, and worksheets to see what the Summer Institute was all about!


Day 1

9:00 am Arrival and Registration

10:00 am Welcome from Climate Generation and from Sarah Gainey, St. Johns Outdoor U

Why Climate Change Education?” by Kristen Poppleton

11:00 am Keynote with Brandie Freeman, Educator, Blogger: “Climate Change Skepticism in the Classroom” and Presentation


12:00 pm Lunch

1:00 pm Curriculum Adaptation Project (worksheet and name of all lessons used)

1:30 pm Climate Change Primer and Education Activities by Kristen Poppleton and Jenna Totz

5:00 pm Free Time: swim, hike, rest, explore

5:30 pm Dinner

6:30 pm National Climate Assessment Impact Mapping (links to story maps and climate change resources)

8:00 pm Campfire on Watab Island

Day 2

7:30 am Breakfast

8:30 am Keynote with Dr. Troy Knight: A long-term perspective on anthropogenic climate change with a special focus on contributions from tree rings

Breakout Sessions

9:45-11:30 am

11:30 am Lunch

12:30 pm Next Generation Climate Curriculum Orientation

1:00 pm Curriculum Adaptation Project work time

Field Trip

1:30 pm

St. John’s Abbey Arboretum Field Trip

Great Lakes Worm Watch Website

Key to Life in the Pond

Virtual Tour by Frank Granshaw

While it’s nearly impossible to explore the entire 2,944 acres of the natural Abbey Arboretum, this tour offers a snapshot of along the 1.5 mile boardwalk loop. The trail travels through the Habitat Restoration Project, which includes restored prairie, oak savanna, wetlands, and forest. Abundant native flora and fauna call this place home and along the way the Outdoor U staff will demonstrate ways the natural world is used to provide hands on educational experiences for over 8,000 preK-12th grade students and teachers annually.

Energy Farm Field Trip

Electron Excitement Activity Directions

Solar Data

Virtual Tour by Frank Granshaw

When the first 3.9 acres of solar panels were installed on the Abbey’s land in 2009, it was the largest ground-mounted PV array in Minnesota. Fast forward almost 10 years later and although the Abbey has added an additional 23 acre community solar garden and now has almost 19% of Saint John’s annual energy needs provided by solar energy, the entire array now can’t even come close to competing with the size of other solar arrays now in Minnesota. And that is exactly what we wanted! The initial solar installation was more about demonstrating that solar works in Minnesota and helping to educate kids and adults alike about the possibilities of renewable energy.

4:30 pm Free Time: swim, hike, rest, explore

5:30 pm Dinner

8:00 pm Climate Change Trivia at the Pub

Day 3

7:30 pm Breakfast

8:30 am Next Generation Climate Solutions Lessons (Lesson 5 and 6 in NGC)

Solution Tours and Workshops:

10:00 am

Virtual Walkabouts by Frank Granshaw

Oak Forest Regeneration for a Changing Climate – Saint John’s was built in a mature forest of northern hardwood and oak, a habitat that has grown rare in the region. Without regular disturbances such as fire, blowdown or intentional harvest, shade intolerant species like oaks naturally decrease in the landscape in favor of the more shade tolerant maple, basswood and aspen. Regenerating long-lived species like oak and pine in the presence of high populations of deer is more challenging and especially labor intensive. We will demonstrate the techniques being used to regenerate oak, which is critical to the future health and biodiversity of the forest in the face of climate change.

Student Led Action and School Board Resolution Toolkit

Resources Mentioned:

Sustainable Pottery Tour – The Saint John’s Pottery embodies, by demonstration and practical experience, the integration of aesthetic, scientific, humanistic, and moral approaches to sustainable living in relation to nature. Ancient Pacific Rim methods of pottery are combined with available local resources and attention to process, anchoring a vision of sustainability. The Saint John’s Pottery was also the first program in the U.S. to address issues of energy consumption and emissions during the firing process. This integration of science and creativity is unique to academic and production pottery programs.

Green STEM Careers Workshop

Are you a creative teacher with a knack for STEM? Or a passionate STEM teacher with a touch of creativity? Climate Generation is launching our new documentary Green Careers for a Changing Climate this fall with a discussion guide and activities for classroom life. Stay tuned!

12:00 pm Lunch

1:00 pm Curriculum Adaptation Project Presentations

2:00 pm Planning for Next Year: Reflection and Networking

3:00 pm Closing and reflection